Britain and 100 other states warn Sharon on rules of war

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The Independent Online

Britain joined more than 100 countries in demanding that Israel refrain immediately from committing "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions, such as the deliberate killing of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The resolution, which also called on Palestinians to show restraint, was backed by British diplomats who attended an international gathering in Geneva that was boycotted by America and Israel. But Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, struck a markedly different tone in London yesterday with a strong expression of sympathy for Israel over recent suicide bombings.

He said: "The Israelis' grief at these outrages is our grief. Israel's people have an absolute right to live in peace and security. It is now incumbent on the Palestinian Authority to arrest the people they know are committing these outrages in Hamas, Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad, and not just to arrest them but to ensure they are effectively detained."

In Geneva, the one-day meeting of signatory states to the Fourth Geneva Convention reaffirmed that the international pact on protecting civilians under military occupation applied to territory seized by Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Switzerland refused Israel's appeal to suspend the session because of last weekend's suicide bombings.